Christian Bongiorno

Robert F. Kennedy (RFK) Jr. is a third-party independent candidate planning to run against Joe Biden and Donald Trump in this November’s presidential election. RFK Jr. is particularly known for being an activist for environmental causes and for being anti-vax — RFK Jr. claims that vaccines are linked to autism while doubting the measles vaccine as well. His campaign focuses on shifting agricultural subsidies, incentivizing industries to use clean energy sources and reducing connections with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the United States Department of Agriculture to focus on conserving the environment. In addition, at first, RFK Jr. supported a federal ban on abortion after three months, but now supports a woman’s right to choose and has opposed federal bans on abortions during the first three months of pregnancy.

Former President Trump referred to Kennedy as “extremely liberal” while saying during an interview that “He might hurt Biden a little more.” With comments like this, there’s speculation that RFK Jr. could play a pivotal role in deciding the winner of 2024’s election since he can potentially steal votes from both candidates. Remember Ross Perot in ‘92 and ‘96? He stole votes from George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole to help Bill Clinton win both those elections. RFK Jr. will be 2024’s Perot as there’s potential for him to spoil both Trump and Biden’s campaigns.

A Marist poll has Biden edging Trump 43 percent to 38 percent in a three-candidate field that includes RFK Jr. An NBC News poll had Biden winning by two percentage points in a five-candidate field consisting of Kennedy, Jill Stein and Cornel West.

Rita Palma, the RFK Jr. campaign’s state official in New York state, urges voters to back Kennedy since it’ll ensure that Biden doesn’t reach 270 electoral college votes. Because Congress picks the president if neither candidate reaches 270, a slim Republican majority means Trump is guaranteed to see the Oval Office in this situation. An advantage RFK Jr. has in the Democratic party is his last name. “Kennedy” is a known surname among Democrats as his uncle, John F. Kennedy was president. That gives RFK Jr. a boost as less-informed Democrats and people looking for an alternative to Biden see RFK Jr. as a potential candidate to vote for, so the differences between Biden and RFK Jr. are likely to split Democratic voters.

Biden blames inflation on COVID-19 recovery and economic fallout from the war in Ukraine while RFK Jr. criticizes Biden’s handling of the banking system. As for immigration, Biden takes a humanitarian approach by increasing humanitarian assistance in Mexico in addition to supporting Title 42, which allowed the United States to return migrants. Kennedy wants to close the border and plans to end the war on drugs.

Trump’s campaign is on high alert as Republican voters have favorable views of Kennedy with 61 percent approving and 27 percent disapproving. The reason some Republicans favor RFK Jr. is because of his conspiracy theories on topics that resonant with Republican beliefs. Notably, he linked anti-depressants to school shootings while saying that the United States’ support for Ukraine was a “setup by the neocons and the CIA.” I mention school shootings and Ukraine as Republican politicians are on the fence when it comes to these issues.

Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene (MTG) was on a quest to oust House Speaker Mike Johnson since Johnson was in favor of giving aid to Ukraine. MTG commented — “Ukraine is not the 51st state” and “We have mud all over our face.” Greene’s stance is that the United States shouldn’t fund Ukraine as there are numerous internal issues such as the Mexican border and the national debt. Her stance holds weight for Republicans since they want to put the country first before getting involved internationally. In addition, Republicans blamed mental illness, not guns, as the reason for mass shootings in Buffalo, NY and Ulvade, TX. Kennedy taking stances akin to these examples are guaranteed to peel votes off Trump’s total. On the other hand, Trump claims that Vladimir Putin wouldn’t have invaded Ukraine if he won in 2020 and he’ll end the war within 24 hours. Trump also puts mental illness as the reason why shootings occur.

Biden and Trump are the two candidates people pay the most attention to because they are candidates in the major parties — Democratic and Republican. RFK Jr. is running as an Independent — historically, independents don’t pan out in presidential elections. As recent polls suggest, Kennedy has a shot to win 13 to 15 percent of the votes but will still fall short of competing with the big boys, Trump and Biden, in terms of votes. Despite this, attention needs to be put on RFK Jr. as he can steal votes away from both campaigns, leading to an interesting finish in November.

Christian Bongiorno is a sophomore majoring in political science.

Views expressed in the opinions pages represent the opinions of the columnists. The only piece which represents the views of the Pipe Dream Editorial Board is the Staff Editorial.